Skelos Successfully Fights To Prevent Lirr Fare Increase
July 19, 2006, New York State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) sent a letter to Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“MTA”) Chairman Peter Kalikow strongly encouraging the MTA to cancel fare increase scheduled for January. Responding to Senator Skelos’ letter, the MTA today announced that it has postponed the January fare increase until at least September 2007.
“The MTA should not charge commuters a penny more than it needs,” said Senator Skelos. “According to the most recent figures, the MTA will end 2006 with $316 million more than it projected earlier this year—or $75 million more than it planned to raise through its scheduled fare increase for all of next year! Canceling the fare increase was the right decision and I’m pleased that the MTA responded to my request.”
As the State Senate’s representative, and Long Island’s lone voice, on the MTA’s four-person Capital Program Review Board, Senator Skelos noted that the Authority ended 2005 with over $1 billion in surplus funds and, according to State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, is projected to end 2006 with a cash surplus of $533 million. Given this strong revenue growth, Senator Skelos effectively argued that the MTA’s planned January 2007 fare increase was unnecessary and counterproductive.
Further, Senator Skelos called upon the MTA to cancel its $50 million holiday fare discount program scheduled for December and utilize those funds to offset planned fare increases in the future. Senator Skelos’ letter noted that, “[a]s the MTA’s own analysis confirmed, last year’s $50 million holiday bonus program provided little benefit to railroad customers, especially those on the Long Island Rail Road.” Unlike the free passes provided to New York City Transit customers, the MTA’s report demonstrated that the weekend and non-peak tickets given to LIRR commuters were mostly unused.
In Senator Skelos letter, he again called upon the MTA to “come forward with a program that includes fare incentives and reductions to help generate an increase in LIRR commuter ridership.” He noted that New York City Transit’s average fare is about $1.30, or less than its $1.38 average fare in 1996.
“With gas prices continuing to spiral upward, the MTA must do more to promote LIRR ridership,” said Senator Skelos. “It must also address the tremendous fare inequities that have overburdened Long Island commuters. By canceling the ill-conceived holiday discount program, I’m hopeful that the MTA will develop a plan that provides real relief for LIRR customers.”